Musée du Louvre
Although this popular museum was not on our itinerary, I had to go and and see a highlight reel in the short amount of time I had. Comparing my experience to the last time I visited, I would definitely recommend getting to the Louvre before opening time, because although you will still have to wait in line, it is much better than the wrap around line that forms later in the day. If you are a student studying abroad, be sure to bring your passport as well as your student visa. The Louvre offers free access to students but had miscommunication as to what forms were needed in order to verify that we were students. If you would like to take a peek at the “Mona Lisa”, earlier in the day allows a much closer look. I planned my trip around seeing the paintings I had just studied in Art History. I would suggest looking up any paintings or pieces that you would be interested in seeing, so that you can map out your visit. It’s an extremely large museum and iconic pieces and serene rooms are just around the corner. Also, don’t forget to look up! In my opinion, the ceilings are worth going to see alone (I don’t know if that’s wrong of me, but it’s true).
Musée de l’Orangerie
“Musee de l’Orangerie” is an infinity sign shaped gallery that is filled with Claude Monet’s “Water Lilies”. The wall’s curves allow a unique viewing experience and seating in the center of the rooms allow guests to relax and appreciate the view. Downstairs, artists such as Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Cezanne, and Gauguin are displayed. Although the “Water Lilies” are incredible, this museum is highly worth the visit for the chance to view well known artist’s work without the large crowds of larger museums, such as the Louvre.
Musée Yves Saint Laurent Paris
The Yves Saint Laurent Museum is incredibly close to attractions like the Eiffel Tower and other museums like “Palais de Tokyo” and “Paris Museum of Modern Art”. This museum is located in the original studio and shows the design process and end products of some of the designer’s most iconic designs. The sketches, fabric swatches, runway videos, accessories, and garments on display were surreal and moving. People left the theater playing a brief documentary about Yves Saint Laurent wiping away their tears and were led upstairs to the studio. The large white room faces grand windows that allow sunlight to fill the room. The room was nowhere near somber, even as the designer’s work was left unfinished and scattered across his table. Also a plus- students get in for free!
Château de Versailles
Although technically this may not be classified as a museum, the paintings, architecture, and gardens are a spectacle to see. The palace was similar to the Louvre in getting free student tickets. We were lucky enough to find employees that stood up for us and got us in with our passports, student visas, and student IDs. The gardens have a student discount and ended up costing 8.50 euros. The palace has propagandist paintings commissioned by King Louis XIV, marble statues scattered throughout, incredible textiles lining the walls and furniture, scenes on the ceiling, and incredible gold work on the architecture. The gardens are vast and impossible to fully explore in one visit. Classical music plays out magically from the bushes that are lined with marble statues. Rowboats are available to rent at a cheap rate and are a fun break from walking through the mazes leading to the fountains and groves. A hidden treasure of the gardens are the “Queen’s Hamlet” and her farm. Marie Antoinette created this village and farm to flee from her castle life, and to this day is filled with live farm animals. A slight walk away from the palace itself, and a separate ticket (also free for students) should not scare anyone away from visiting this universe within a universe.
The Salvador Dali Museum is located in the artist quarters of Montmartre. It is a smaller gallery and does not have a student discount (we paid 9 pounds). The gallery features many of his most iconic pieces as well as art inspired by Dali. Originals were also up for sale and I found it extremely interesting to sit back and watch potential buyers. In my short visit, I observed two couples buying Dali originals! Dali’s quotes were painted on the wall and inspired each of us differently. His life’s timeline, love story, and work process was also shown in the form of short films and written word.
Musée du Parfum Fragonard
Another atypical museum to check out is the Museum of Perfume by Fragonard. Tour guides will walk you through the process of extracting oils from the most well used ingredients, and explain how the layering of notes is conducted. The museum also features the way that perfumes were used throughout history and has the beautiful bottles and containers that these were held in. At the end, a quick perfume sampling session was conducted so that we were able to test our knowledge of scent mixing and the origin of the ingredients. This museum also serves as a great location to buy souvenirs and gifts.
Porte de Clignancourt
This flea market is also technically not a museum, but I thought I would include it because of the artifacts that can be found here. This market is the largest flea market in Europe and could easily be intimidating. Our professor walked us through to the more secluded, hidden portions of the market, (where Victoria Beckham was found lurking just last year), so that we could view the vintage clothing. Although these pieces are far too expensive for the average person, old magazines, vintage purses, beading, a spaceship pod home etc. are worth looking at. This market is also a good rainy day activity because most of the market is under a roof. A quick tip: if you see fake Gucci and hardware tools, turn around!